AIG, or the American International Group, Inc. is a world leader in financial services providing, including life insurance. AIG is–or was up until very recently at the time of this writing–the leading international insurance organization, having operations in over 130 nations and jurisdictions. AIG companies provide commercial, institutional, and individual financial services through the most extensive worldwide property-casualty and life insurance networks of any insurance company, although they are being closely competed with by MetLife. What’s more, AIG companies are leading providers of financial services and asset management across the globe. AIG has its common stock listed on the New York, Ireland and Tokyo stock exchanges.
AIG’s member companies in the life insurance industry include: AIG American General in Houston, Texas; American General Life and Accident Insurance Company in Nashville, Tennessee; and The United States Life Insurance Company in the City of New York.
However, AIG has recently taken extremely heavy financial harm to itself because part of its financial services included underwriting and buying subprime loans and lending to other financial institutions who did the same. This leaves many people wondering about the financial stability of AIG.
AIG is in fact planning to sell its three life insurance units in Japan. These sales could total close to $10 billion. AIG now owes $85 billion to the United States government.
AIG intends to sell shares in American Life Insurance Co (ALICO), AIG Star Life Insurance Co, and AIG Edison Life Insurance Co.
“It would be hard for a single domestic insurer to make the acquisition by itself,” a senior official at a major life insurance company was quoted by the Japanese business daily Nikkei as having said.
“We know absolutely nothing regarding [who the potential buyers are],” says Tokyo AIG spokesman Fumiyasu Sato.
AIG has also announced plans at the time of this writing to sell at least most of its life insurance and retirement asset management affiliate companies in the U.S., Europe, and Latin America, and in fact the vast majority of all of its businesses with the notable exception of certain of its core property and casualty insurance businesses in its attempts to pay back the U.S. federal government for preventing it from having to declare bankruptcy. Where not long ago AIG’s stock traded at over $70 a share on the New Yorks Stock Exchange, it now trades for less than $4 a share.
AIG spokesman Peter Tulupman has said, “Literally, everything else that doesn’t fit under that definition, we are considering for sale.”
“We won’t exactly be the AIG of old, but we’ll have a very secure position. This is going to be a formidable company that emerges from this,” says AIG CEO Edward Liddy.
However, more than one economist is concerned that at least for now AIG is going to have some trouble getting rid of its life insurance and most other businesses. “He’s trying to refocus AIG to be a true insurance company. The question is, with current market conditions, will there be reasonable bids? If he doesn’t generate enough cash to pay off the loan, then everything comes tumbling down,” says Rob Haines, a debt analyst at CreditSights Inc.
However, AIG is going to do everything it can to retain a majority stake in its American International Assurance Co. life insurance unit. “The businesses we are retaining could not be re-created today,” says Liddy, who once upon a time was the CEO of Allstate Insurance Co. and was appointed by the US government to take the helm at AIG. He is confident that the sales he is orchestrating will bring in more than enough revenues to repay the feds while also securing the interests of the company’s shareholders.
Both Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s, two of the most respected independent insurance and financial services rating agencies, have downgraded AIG’s ratings; both raters cited the fact that AIG has borrowed extremely heavily against its credit line and that the amount borrowed exceeds what was anticipated, and Liddy’s sales attempts are fairly risky.
It is probably advisable for those who hold AIG life insurance policies or annuities to watch and see who, if anyone, buys AIG’s life insurance businesses, and to see if the company does retain its majority stake in its American International Assurance Co. life insurance unit before choosing whether or not to change life insurers.